A GOAL in each half secured an entertaining 2-0 home win for Stratford Town against Alvechurch and spoiled Darren Byfield’s return to the Arden Garages Stadium.
Byfield, who began last season as Town boss before departing after just six games, was back at Stratford for the first time and his side played their part in an enthralling Southern Premier Central encounter.
However, it was Town who prevailed on Tuesday thanks to Joe Curtis’ second-minute opener and a Nabil Shariff strike midway through the second half.
Town and Church, who met six times in various competitions last season but who both now field much-changed teams under new managers, were each keen to make their mark on the game.
Stratford drew first blood when Kurtis Revan’s strike from the edge of the box was tipped on to the bar by Church keeper Lloyd Ransome and Curtis was quickest to convert the rebound from close range.
Stratford should have been pegged back soon afterwards but Javia Roberts somehow volleyed over from almost under the bar having got on the end of a cross from the right.
The lively Shariff then had a shot from a narrow angle turned behind by Ransome before the visitors’ Jordan Goddard fizzed a 20-yard strike a whisker wide.
Ten minutes before half-time Roberts almost made amends when he burst down the left and cut inside before forcing Elliott Taylor to tip his effort over the bar.
Curtis went close to making it 2-0 just before the break with a long-range strike but that would have been harsh on Alvechurch, who started the second half impressively as Jamie Willets put a free header straight at Taylor before Roberts crashed a thumping strike against Taylor’s left-hand post with the keeper well beaten.
However, Stratford bagged a decisive second goal on 68 minutes and it was in-form Shariff who netted when he rose highest to head in Curtis’ inswinging corner from the right for his seventh goal of the season and fifth in the last four games.
Curtis wasted a fine late chance to make it 3-0 when he fired against the advancing Ransome but there was no denying Stratford.
Alvechurch, who visit Nuneaton Borough on Saturday, squandered a 2-0 lead at the weekend when they drew 2-2 at home to Peterborough Sports.
A quickfire second half double from Kevin Monteiro had put the home side in command. Firstly, Monteiro headed in from Josh Ezewele’s cross and then he tapped home from Ben Usher-Shipway’s cross.
However, Richard Jones reduced the visitors’ arrears midway through the period. Monteiro then had a shot tipped on to the bar by Sports keeper Lewis Moat before Paul Malone headed a last-gasp leveller in the third minute of stoppage time.